The WWE routinely goes through highs and lows during the year. Unfortunately for wrestling fans, the WWE is in one of those lulls, and Sunday night's 8 p.m. Payback pay-per-view reflects that.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be a bad pay-per-view. However, since Extreme Rules, the storylines have been more or less stagnant. There are two rematches on the card — three if you include Hornswaggle-El Torito — and those storylines are more or less exactly where they were a month ago. Throw in the fact that the top title won’t even be defended, for the first time on pay-per-view since December 2012, and you can see why there isn’t a whole lot of buzz for this show. This is one of those pay-per-views that shows why the WWE might want to consider dropping down to nine or 10 a year, especially now that the shows are on the WWE Network.
Despite this, the show could have some good matches on it. The two big matches (Shield-Evolution and Cena-Wyatt) should be fairly brutal affairs and have the potential to be great matches, and Cesaro-Sheamus should be a good match between two of the hardest-hitting wrestlers in the company. Throw in Barrett-RVD and a potentially good Divas match in Paige-Alicia Fox, and this could actually end up being a solid show, from top to bottom.
Here’s my look at the card:
Hornswaggle vs. El Torito ("Hair vs. Mask" match)
This is an example of the WWE taking a decent thing and going way too far with it. The WeeLC match last month was decent, but they really didn’t need to continue this feud. I assume that Hornswaggle needs to shave his head for the "Leprechaun: Origins" movie WWE is putting out, or something, so Torito gets the win.
Winner: El Torito
Rusev vs. Big E
This should be the first time we see Rusev in a match that lasts longer than five minutes. I assume Big E will look decent in this match, and while they’ve soured on him somewhat, I can’t see them just completely burying him. The outcome isn’t in doubt, but it should be interesting to see Rusev have a decent-length match.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox (Divas title)
This is the first real feud Paige has had during her run on the main roster. Unfortunately for Paige, the feud has focused mainly on Alicia Fox and her antics. But while you could say it’s been disappointing on Paige’s side, it has been nice to see a diva actually have a little bit of personality. Will this last? It’s hard to say. You can pour soda on yourself only so many times before it gets old. But for now, it at least is a compelling reason to watch Divas matches, even if it’s just to see what she’ll do next. This actually has the potential to be a pretty good match, as Alicia Fox quietly has been one of the better wrestlers among the Divas on the main roster for a while now. Their earlier match on RAW, in which Alicia gave Paige her first loss, was solid, and if given time, this could be another pretty good match. While I could see Alicia Fox winning, just to capitalize on her recent surge, then giving Paige the title back at the next pay-per-view, I think Paige is going to win.
Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam (Intercontinental title)
There’s good and bad with the way this match was built, with a lot of time dedicated to the title. First there was the tournament that crowned Bad News Barrett as the No. 1 contender, which he then used to beat Big E for the title. RVD got his title shot by winning a Beat the Clock challenge. But when the title has diminished in prestige so much, what you need is a real solid feud over the belt to make people care again. If random competitors are just getting shots, even if they have earned the shots, it's going to be hard to make people care. And who knows? Maybe this will be the start of a feud. But that’s the next thing this belt really needs. I do like the fact that the belt is getting time, though, and this is a step in the right direction. I can’t see RVD winning this, and if he was, he would’ve just won the tournament in the first place.
Winner: Bad News Barrett
Sheamus vs. Cesaro (U.S. title)
This match is an interesting one. For the past few months, people have been waiting for Cesaro to take that next step in the company, and a decent reign as U.S. champion could be just that step. However, the WWE is also simultaneously trying to re-establish Sheamus after his injury. So we face an interesting situation here, and it’s a reason why I’m a little bit surprised that they’re having this match. I could see this ending up being a long-term feud. I know there are people who aren’t the biggest fans of Sheamus and his in-ring style, but against someone like Cesaro, who is also a heavy hitter, he has been able to put on some strong matches in the past. A feud between the two could make both look very good in the long run. The one X-factor is the Money in the Bank pay-per-view coming up in a few weeks. I expect both to be in the match — unless it ends up being for the WWE World Heavyweight title, if Daniel Bryan gets it stripped. Granted, they could continue the feud leading up to and during the match, but it would be a bit awkward. Either way, it’s hard for me to see Cesaro winning in this encounter. Could he win it soon? Definitely. But not this time.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing)
Not much has changed in this feud since I wrote about it for the Elimination Chamber preview. I assume this will be the final encounter between these two, and despite some thinking that means Bray Wyatt could and should go over, because of the nature of the feud, I have a hard time seeing that. Cena losing a Last Man Standing match is hard enough to see, but to have them then separate afterward would be so unnatural for Cena’s character. Meanwhile, Bray Wyatt has proven himself in this feud, and while a win would be nice, it’s not like a loss would bury him, either. It will be interesting to see where they go with him after this feud, though, as there aren’t a lot of real natural targets.
Winner: John Cena
Evolution vs. The Shield (No Holds Barred Elimination Match)
This match is the most intriguing on the card because they could go so many different ways in it. The natural inclination is simply to have Evolution win and continue the feud. There also has to be a thought out there that The Shield winning once again would solidify The Shield as top-notch superstars (particularly whoever gets the final pin, which I assume would be Roman Reigns). As I mentioned in my RAW column, the sudden emphasis on this as the “final match” between the two strikes me as odd. There’s been no build toward that at all. Which makes me think one of two things are happening.
First, it’s very possible that Batista is going to go away to start promoting "Guardians of the Galaxy." That could mean that The Shield would go over cleanly, and that Evolution would simply break apart. The other is the possibility that I keep coming back to, especially if Batista is leaving: a member of The Shield could jump over to Evolution’s side. An elimination match would be conducive to that as well, as you could certainly see a situation where Roman Reigns is the last man for the Shield, Triple H is the last man for Evolution, and either Ambrose or Rollins messes up Reigns. The problem with that at the moment is that with Daniel Bryan out, The Shield is the hottest thing they have going. If they break the group up, would Reigns (or him and whoever else is with him) be just as hot? It’s something the WWE has to think about, especially while they’re in this summer lull.
I could see this match going either way. There’s definitely not a correct answer here. And either because Evolution isn’t losing three pay-per-views in a row (Wrestlemania included) or because of a Shield member jumping, I’m going to lean toward Evolution winning. But it certainly wouldn’t shock me if The Shield won.
Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below or find me on Twitter @TheAOster.